The Numbers Game Through 5 Games

Well, we’re five games into the series between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. With that many games under our belts, we have a decently-large enough sample size to dig into the underlying numbers a bit and see how each player is doing.

I split the data into home and away, and I’m looking at both Corsi (all shot attempts: on-net, blocked and missing the net) and Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts), in part because the Flames are block machines and in part because it could be interesting. Numbers are expressed in terms of plus/minus in each category.

Beware sample sizes, though: there have been 2 home games and 3 away games, so bear that in mind when you look at the gaps.


Home Away
Corsi Fenwick Corsi Fenwick
Monahan -1 +3 -27 -30
Hudler E +5 -26 -27
Gaudreau -4 -1 -20 -23
Bennett -14 -5 +3 E
Backlund -14 -6 +6 +2
Colborne -15 -10 -1 -4
Stajan -9 -2 +4 +10
Ferland -4 +5 +4 +8
Jones -6 +2 +7 +10
Bollig -4 -1 -5 E
Jooris E +5 -7 -4
Granlund n/a n/a -1 +2
Raymond -7 -1 -6 -7

(Granlund and Raymond split time.)

At home, every line posts fairly respectable numbers, though the second line (Bennett/Backlund/Colborne) likely suffers a bit from match-ups and lags behind everyone else a bit in both Corsi and Fenwick. It’s worth noting that Stajan, Ferland and Jones have seen the most of the Sedins in Calgary and, shockingly, they are almost in the black in terms of Fenwick.

On the road, woof. The Stajan line remains stellar – it likely helps that Willie Desjardins has last change and likely does his damnest to avoid a Sedins match-up with Ferland – but the Flames top line is getting demolished. Everybody else is just fine, but considering how crucial that trio is to production, it’s a pretty massive gap between them getting their proverbial possession heads kicked in…and everyone else not doing so.


Home Away
Corsi Fenwick Corsi Fenwick
Russell -21 -13 -18 -13
Wideman -23 -11 -11 -7
Engelland -1 +7 -14 -14
Brodie +2 +11 -12 -15
Schlemko -2 +4 +6 +3
Wotherspoon -7 -2 -1 -3
Potter n/a n/a +4 +7

(Wotherspoon and Potter split time.)

The distribution is a bit less stacked here. At home, Engelland and Brodie do well, Russell and Wideman do the worst and the third pairing is somewhere in the mushy middle. On the road, the two top pairings are about even, while the bottom pairing is a bit higher up, though if you pro-rate that by ice-time it’s a lot less impressive.

Basically, Willie Desjardins seems to try to target match-ups to negate the offensive prowess of Calgary’s top two defense pairings at home, while Russell and Wideman seemingly get the tough sledding at home so that Engelland and Brodie can try to create chances. There is no real logic behind the use of the bottom pairing in either building.

Give the logics, the performance of the defensive group is more or less exactly as you would expect it to be.


I’m purposefully cherry-picking here just to provide a brief cross-section.

Home Away
Corsi Fenwick Corsi Fenwick
H.Sedin +32 +28 +27 +11
D.Sedin +27 +26 +23 +9
Bonino -14 -10 +3 +1
Vrbata -2 E +4 +1
Horvat -3 -3 +2 -6
Edler +8 +13 -7 -6
Tanev +9 +12 -10 -5
Bieksa -8 -8 +8 -3
Sbisa -16 -14 +13 +1

The difference between Corsi and Fenwick is particularly stark (a) in the Saddledome and (b) against the Sedins. I mean, that split is insane, and it speaks to Calgary’s apparent game plan: keep them to the outside and block whatever you can.

And you can also see how handily the Sedins handle the Monahan line at Rogers Arena. This series so far has been a fun study in how match-ups can determine a series’ outcomes at home and on the road.

But based on these numbers, you can kind-of see what so many hockey people are thinking Calgary closes out the series on Saturday night, too. When they get the match-ups they want, they’re pretty effective.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Excellent article Ryan. Nicely shows how important match-ups have been for Bob Hartley’s team, especially that top line. Hopefully the last change for CGY on home ice puts game 6 in the win column.

  • RexLibris

    I think the Flames close it out at the Saddledome.

    However, those numbers are really bad.

    Granted, we’d have to consider the kind of shots being taken. WoI has some information on that:

    Flames gave up shots from the perimeter but limited shots against from the medium and high danger areas, relative to the rest of the league.

    That is going to skew the results of the Fenwick numbers a bit, but even then the sheer volume of shots being taken, coupled with the shot blocking the defense is being asked to do, is reminiscent of Tortorella’s strategy. It might work for short periods of time, but ultimately an opponent is going to find a way to get around this and the shots will start going in.

    I suspect Anaheim is already looking at ways to convert the number of shots the Flames give up in a game.

    • mattyc

      What’s missing in those numbers (besides heart, leadership, confidence and beard-growth potential) is who they’re playing against.

      The negative corsi/fenwick is almost exclusively against the Sedins, who are absolutely spanking the Flames. Otherwise, the Flames have actually been out-chancing the Canucks most of the series. The Nucks main weakness so far has been that whenever the Sedins are on the bench, the Flames have been able to control the chances and forecheck well.

      Last night, unfortunately, this didn’t hold, and the Bonino line also out-chanced the good guys. Last night was just an all-round spanking, especially whenever Backlund wasn’t on the ice.

      • RexLibris

        The Flames are hard-matching lines and getting beaten at it.

        That the supporting cast is drawing even isn’t a good sign either way.

        Both teams are more or less in the same position right now as teams rebuilding on the fly.

        The difference, and it is one wherein Flames fans can take heart, is that the Flames’ top line is more or less entering the league (outside of Hudler) while the Canucks’ top line is in the back nine of their careers.

        I don’t think the Flames are going to lose this series. They might, but my money is on them to win.

        The issue is what this means for the next series.

        Arguably the Monahan line could use some help in this series.

        They damned well are certain to need some against the Ducks.

        Where will it come from? It isn’t and it may not be pretty. That is something that, if I were a fan, I would be concerned about while still enjoying the moment of this series.

  • I really hope that the Flames close it out on Saturday night. If they play like they did in games 3 & 4, there’s no reason to believe they won’t be able to.

    That being said, part of me can’t help but think that the well-rested Ducks are probably going to demolish whichever team makes it out of this round. But I said the same thing in 2004, so who knows.

  • RexLibris

    Good stuff Ryan. For those not allergic to fancy stats, here is a link to player usage chart (, showing the relative zone starts and quality of competition in the play off series so far to complement the numbers presented in the article. 3rd line (Stajan, Ferland, Jones) along with Brodie and Schlemko have all been pretty good in their roles. 1st line has been playing against the Sedins and the possession stats reflect this. 2nd line has been ok and provided some much needed secondary scoring. Given their limited role and ice time, 4th liners (Bollig, Jooris and Granlund) have been solid defensively.

    Here is a closer look and breakdown of the defensive possession stats of Flames skaters, adjusted for ice time and sorted in ascending order by Fenwick against per 60 minutes of ice time (FA60). First column is Corsi against/60 and last one is fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts (ZSO%):

    Name....	CA60	FA60	ZSO%
    Potter..	36.3	18.1	50.0
    Granlund	52.9	26.5	0.0
    Ferland.	51.4	27.5	23.1
    Schlemko	50.5	28.9	46.9
    Jones...	52.8	30.4	23.5
    Stajan..	56.3	32.2	30.0
    Jooris..	67.0	35.6	27.8
    Bollig..	70.4	36.9	18.8
    Backlund	53.5	36.9	45.7
    Wotherspoon	72.7	38.1	66.7
    Brodie..	56.1	38.1	39.5
    Bennett.	58.1	39.4	52.4
    Engelland	58.6	39.5	35.0
    Colborne	60.4	43.2	55.0
    Wideman.	73.0	49.5	50.8
    Russell..	73.9	49.7	50.8
    Hudler..	72.9	53.3	67.4
    Gaudreau	72.2	54.7	69.6
    Raymond..	92.1	55.8	30.8
    Monahan..	75.3	58.9	68.1

    Not the prettiest of tables, but gives a rough idea how players have fared in the defensive side of the possession game.

  • I am so glad we stole that win in Vancouver game 1. Home ice is a huge advantage this series.

    The shots were pretty skewed in VAN’s favor last night but I still feel like we had at least as many high quality scoring chances as they did. VAN was giving us all kinds of turnovers in the first 2 periods and we just couldn’t convert. I was expecting VAN to be out of gas by the third last night after seeing the way we ran them out of town in games 3 & 4 but it was actually the Flames who got tired by the end.

    Don’t expect that to happen again tomorrow.